The minimum wage, the least amount that most workers can legally be paid, is usually a source of controversy. Workers often fight for their state legislatures to raise the minimum wage. Naturally, employers tend to resist such efforts. This year, bills related to the minimum wage were introduced in 38 states, so the matter remains quite unsettled.
Readers may not realize that there are actually two levels of minimum wage. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that the federal government currently sets its minimum at $7.25 per hour. Most states, along with Washington, D.C., have higher minimum wages for their workers. However, 18 states, plus two U.S. territories, have set their minimum wages right at the federal requirement.
Three states' minimum wage technically falls below the federal version, but employers nevertheless must apply the federal minimum. Six states have no minimum wage on the books.
As we mentioned above, Washington, D.C. has a higher minimum wage than required by federal law; the minimum here is $10.50 an hour as of July 1, 2015 An increase of another dollar to $11.50 will take effect on July 1, 2017.
A year after that, D.C. law will begin indexing its minimum wage, which means it could go up every year.
Of course, a minimum wage law is only effective when it is enforced. Employers who illegally pay their workers below the minimum wage may be held accountable through litigation.